Drag Queen Confessions
SYDNEY: Brazilian-born, New Zealand-raised Ricky Beirao offers an insight into life as a drag queen in this intimate and revealing show, part of the Mardi Gras Festival. By Lachlan Bennett.
When Ricky Beirao decided in the middle of the night to write a show about his life as a drag queen, he wasn’t exactly confident about how it would be received.
“I thought I would get rocks and tomatoes thrown at me,”Beirao tells SX.
But since his show Confessions of a Drag Queen debuted in 2009, it has played to sell-out theatre, had three seasons in New Zealand and now, it’s getting a staging at the Sydney Opera House.
The show, which mixes drag, drama and dance, is based onBeirao’s life and traces the origins and development of his drag persona Rhubarb Rouge.
Touching on Beirao’s struggles with Catholicism, culture, sexuality and internalised transphobia, Confessions of a Drag Queen takes audiences on, what he describes, a“rollercoaster ride of emotion, glitter and glamour”.
“It’s a journey, that’s the best way of saying it. It starts off when I was a child, a little boy playing with Barbies, to moving to New Zealand, to telling my mother I’ve come out, to being in a Zumba class to lose weight so I could fit in women’s dresses,” Beirao says.
Beirao was born in Brazil in 1987 and says hebegan exploring his sexuality at an early age due to Brazil’s highly sexualised culture.
“I think children in Brazil start [being sexually active] fairly early. Brazil is such a sexual place that there’s no way of not starting that early.”
Beirao grappled with his sexual identity, in part due to his Catholic upbringing but also because of his family’s negative reaction to revelations of his sister’s homosexuality.
“When [my sister] came out, my mother nearly had a heart attack,” Beirao says. “The whole family was shaken and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can never come out. It’s going to be an even bigger drama’.”
The closest didn’t swing open until several years later, but by this stage, he was also struggling with the cultural shock of moving to New Zealand when he was 13.
“It was a huge shock. I used to a huge city in Brazil, very big, [with a population] of four million and then I moved to a city with 40,000 people.
“The language was also big thing. I knew no English what-so-ever, just the basics.”
Surrounded by what seemed like a world of struggle, Beirao’sdrag alter ego Rhubarb Rouge nevertheless managed to emerge in the mid-2000s.
Since first appearing in 2006, Rouge has developed into refined performer and subsequently, the star of Confessions of a Drag Queen.
“As I came to terms with [my sexuality] I began to realise you can be whatever you want as long as you’re happy with it.”
[Image] Confessions of a Drag Queen … Ricky Beirao as Rhubarb Rouge.
Confessions of a Drag Queen, Friday, March 1, Sydney Opera House. Tix $55/$50 from sydneyoperahouse.com.au